Chinese gamblers become No. 1 patrons of S. Korean casinos

SEOUL, May 27 (Yonhap) -- The number of Chinese gamblers visiting South Korean casinos surpassed that of Japanese high-rollers for the first time last year, the culture ministry said Monday, as fears of North Korea's provocations and the falling yen curtailed growth of Japanese customers.

According to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, more than 970,000 or 40.7 percent of foreigners visiting local casinos came from mainland China last year, compared with 33 percent from Japan.

The number of Japanese gamblers plunged 6.5 percent on-year to 785,000 in 2012, as worries over North Korea's provocations and the cheaper yen drove Japanese visitors away from South Korean betting houses.

High-stake gamblers from China, meanwhile, grew dramatically over the past three years, nearly tripling from 366,000 in 2009.

"Since more and more Chinese tourists are visiting South Korea, a further increase in Chinese gamblers is expected this year," a tourism industry official said.

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